FROM ELECTIONS TO JUSTICE AND FAIR PLAY
From the Heads of Churches
2 Corinthians 4:1-2
Since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
TO the members of our churches, our brothers and sisters from all walks of life and the leadership of this nation; fraternal greetings;
We, the Heads of Churches from the member churches of the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) gathered in Lusaka on 28th February, 2012, to deliberate on the post election state of our Nation Zambia, reaffirmed our continued commitment to provide a prophetic voice on issues of Christian values and human dignity. We continue as a Council of Churches to believe and promote the upholding of human dignity, justice, integrity, transparency and accountability in all matters of human interaction at all levels of society.
Since the publication of our last Pastoral Letter to the Nation entitled ‘Another chance for a new beginning’ a month after the September 20th General Elections, we have followed closely the first 90 days and beyond of the PF government’s work. We note that following the change of Government on 22nd September, 2011, there has been a renewed spirit in the country which has invigorated the high expectations of the Zambian people.
We continue to believe and trust that indeed a better Zambia is possible under the new leadership and as we continue to hope that the lives of many Zambians will be improved, we would like to encourage Zambians of good will to support all progressive programmes being planned and already being implemented by the Government. Zambians cannot be bystanders in their own development but should remain active participants in their communities in matters that improve their own livelihoods and produce a bright future for our children and grandchildren.
After thoughtful deliberation and consultation among our members, we the leaders of the CCZ member churches, do here by make the following observations on the State of our Nation Zambia:
- 1. Commissions of Enquiry
The government has in the past five months appointed several commissions of enquiry to probe into numerous transactions where corruption is suspected to have occurred or indeed to establish the legality of certain transactions. We wish to commend the Government for taking these steps. We also commend the Commissions for their expeditious work and for completing their work on time.
However, as church leaders, we are concerned that the recommendations of these commissions may not be treated with the seriousness and gravity they deserve.
We are urging the government to keep in mind the costs to the tax payers associated with these commissions and ensure that Zambians get value for their money from the work of these commissions.
- 2. Re-alignment of districts and creation of new government portfolios
We have observed with sadness the unnecessary wrangles that have engulfed the Nation as a result of unilateral decisions being made by the Government without regard to parliament, other political parties and the affected stakeholders. We have also noted that there is no meaningful public debate being encouraged by our Government on the contentious decisions being made by the Government. Most pronouncements are not based on wide consultation thereby causing anxiety in some areas and leaving uncertainty in other areas.
We have noted that whilst the realignment of districts is an effort to improve delivery of services to these communities, this has however not been done in consultation with the affected communities and district stakeholders. We have noted that this inadequate consultation and lack of public debate is creating anxiety among citizens as they fear the return of dictatorial tendencies in the running of state affairs.
As church leaders, we would prefer that the Government consults widely on these changes so that the nation fully appreciates and understand the reasons and benefits of such re-alignments.
- 3. Shuffling of ministries, Hiring and Firing of Top Civil Servants
We have noted that in the past few months, there has been numerous shuffling and appointments of ministers and top civil servants. We have also noted that the Government has been hiring and firing top civil servants in their attempt to position capable people within the civil service.
While this is expected in a new government, we expected the Patriotic Front to have been adequately prepared for the task of governing this Nation. The PF should have had, for instance, a shadow cabinet ready to govern this nation.
However, the rate at these shuffling, hiring and firing of ministers and civil servants is a source of concern to the Church. This phenomenon is not instilling confidence in the civil service and is destroying careers of seasoned civil servants. These changes are also causing insecurity of tenure of office for these appointed officials which may result into poor performance by the entire civil service. These disturbances may have a negative effect on productivity and performance by the government institutions.
We would therefore appeal to the government to do diligent research on these changes before announcement and appointments are made.
- 4. Cadres in the Civil Service
One of the demands of the Zambian people to the Government was that they needed to see a professional civil service that is able to guide and run government structures professionally according to the laid down procedures and their constitutional roles. Zambians want a professional civil service that is able to efficiently manage government structures while leaving politics to politicians.
We note, however, that instead of the Government cleaning up and getting rid of political cadres from our civil service, more and more cadres are being appointed into senior civil service positions. Prominent PF cadres, some of whom lost elections in the just ended general election, have been appointed into senior civil service positions as controlling officers, district commissioners and into professional positions in the Foreign Service and parastatals.
As Church leaders we find this very retrogressive and discriminatory to the many qualified Zambians seeking for appointments in the civil service that are neither relations of the senior Government officials or PF cadres. We also find this to be totally against the very foundation of our nation under our motto of One Zambia One Nation.
Government should follow the laid down procedures of filling vacancies in the civil service and advertise all vacant positions. Government should also allow various parastatal Boards to recruit their own chief executive officers. This will enhance transparency and accountability which are necessary ingredients for a healthy democratic state.
5 Threats on Traditional leadership
The Church is worried about threats being given to chiefs in several parts of the country by government for opposing government decisions or intentions affecting their chiefdoms or people. We have also heard of threats of banishment and dethronement from the Government on chiefs perceived to be in support of the opposition.
The public reprimand of Chiefs from Eastern Province, Northwestern and Southern province without regard to the dignity of the traditional leadership is a recipe for unnecessary acrimony and disunity among Zambians. Zambians love and respect their traditional leadership and therefore it is an affront to them to carpet their chiefs publicly.
Our advice to the Government is that traditional matters should be left in the hands of relevant institutions such as the Ministry responsible for Chiefs and the House of Chiefs to resolve any wrangles and coordinate affairs of chiefdoms amicably and in a dignified manner.
Chiefs play a critical role in directing development to needy areas and the Government should allow the chiefs to operate freely and according to our laws.
6 Probing Privatized companies
The investigations in the sale of companies like Zamtel and Zanaco among others are welcome initiatives. Zambians are interested in knowing if their companies were sold in a right manner and for the right amount.
The Church has noted the decisions by Government to reverse some of these transactions on these companies.
We, the Church urge for careful thought and caution in the way forward in dealing with these companies as some decisions may reverse many of the gains scored through the privatization process. The Government should not forget untold suffering and misery many workers and their families went through during Zambia’s privatization process. A reversal of the gains attained so far would definitely come with their own pains and create new levels of untold sufferings.
As church leaders, we therefore appeal to the Government to exercise maximum wisdom in this and ensure that the interests of Zambians are protected while at the same time ensuring that the Zambian workers do not lose their source of livelihood during this period. The church prays for fairness and justice to all parties involved.
7 Constitutional making process
We, commend the Government for having fulfilled their promise of appointing a Technical Committee, within 90 days, to review and come up with a constitution that would stand the test of time.
However, as Church leaders we are concerned that this whole constitution making process is not protected by a specific legislation. We have also thus far not heard from Government on the modalities being put in place for a referendum commission to organize a referendum. A referendum is the bedrock of the entire process. Without the assurance in writing of a referendum and at least the appointment of a Commission with a time frame attached to it by the Government, this would send cold waves within our constituent general membership. The people have been duped on this matter for too long and this seems to be a good opportunity that Zambia has in ensuring that the right thing is done this time around. They also feel that this is the perfect opportunity for Zambia to have a people-driven Constitution to last the test of time. The Government so far has a strong good will from the people of Zambia and the people expect no less that a good constitution to stand the test of time.
We would, therefore, like to urge the Government to provide clear guidelines and time frames on how they intend to facilitate the process of making a new constitution according to the wishes of the Zambian people.
8 Gender Violence
The Council of Churches in Zambia is deeply concerned about the ever escalating incidents of gender violence many of these ending in murder, child defilement, dumping of newly born babies and general fall in morality and values in our society.
The Country needs to move very quickly from only condemning this scourge to immediate action. This situation needs urgent, bold resolve to do whatever it takes at individual level, churches, small communities and indeed Government. This matter needs clear leadership, clear guidance and adequate resources both human and financial to enable the nation confront this shameful evil with all it takes to respond effectively. Our Government needs to allocate these resources urgently to enable the relevant arms of Government such as the Zambia Police Service, the judiciary and others to take action expeditiously. This problem cannot wait for donor money, our own resources must found to protect our own citizens.
We urge the judiciary to create fast track courts to handle these cases so that the perpetrators do not get away with these crimes for lack of prosecutors. We would also propose that cases of Gender based violence, once brought before the courts of law should not be allowed to be withdrawn. We feel this will protect the victims from being intimidated to withdraw these cases from the courts of law.
The Council of Churches in Zambia on its part is declaring Zero tolerance to all forms of gender injustices. In addition to their already rolled out programmes on gender violence, all their member churches are hereby requested to prioritize gender justice programmes in their congregations, to ensure that their members remain vigilant in their communities and to make possible avenues for reporting all perpetrators to the nearest police station. They are also being advised to prepare parents to be on guard at all times and to treat all children in their vicinity as they would treat and protect their own biological children.
9 The Foundation of a Strong Nation
The Council of Churches wishes to reiterate their stand on family values. Marriage is between male and female and no other way. We believe that homosexual relationships are contrary to the order of nature as designed by God the Creator. We therefore wish to state categorically that we are opposed to legalization of homosexuality and all its forms of derivatives. We believe in strong family units because they are the basis of a strong and orderly community.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
Rev Moses Lucas Mwale